Courtesy of James Ford
When James Ford started buying and selling toys right out of high school, some people thought it was strange.
“I was the guy buying everybody’s toys, and they thought it was crazy like, ‘Why are you buying this stuff?'” Ford said. “I was like, ‘You’ll see.'”
More than 10 years later, Ford organizes and operates the biggest toy show in Ohio. The ninth annual Columbus Toy and Collectible Show is scheduled for Sunday at Veterans Memorial and draws in 2,500-3,000 guests in one day, Ford said.
Ford is the owner and operator of CTS Promotions, which puts on the annual Columbus Toy and Collectible Show and organizes and promotes other toy shows in different parts of the U.S.
This year, Ford said there are more than 120 vendors signed up to sell, with some traveling from Florida and New York for the show.
Ford started the Columbus Toy and Collectible Show in 2003 after the previous operator stopped the show.
“We went a few years without a toy show and nobody was bringing one to Columbus,” Ford said. “I didn’t know what I was doing, and I created a show, and the first show I had 150 tables to sell and ended up selling 310. Ever since my show has just rocked.”
Since Ford’s first toy show in 2003, the demographic of visitors has shifted.
“When I first started, my demographic was 18- to 35-year-old guys that live with their mom in the basement. I love those guys. They got money,” Ford said. “But I’ve been making the show more family-oriented because the moms and dads that grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, now they want their kids to see what they collected.”
Toys sold at show range from collectibles from the 1950s to present toy lines, Ford said.
“The most popular lines we sell are what I call the Big Four: Star Wars toys, Transformers, G.I. Joe and Hot Wheels,” Ford said. “When you get to the girls, that’s a totally different thing. We are looking at vintage Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Ponys and Barbies.”
Due to Disney’s buying of George Lucas’ Lucasfilm in October, Star Wars toys are among the most popular right now, Ford said.
“Now that Disney’s bought the new rights to the film, Star Wars toys are booming right now,” Ford said. “It doesn’t matter what it is, Star Wars toys are where it is.”
The price range of the toys at the show varies greatly, Ford said.
“It could be $1 to $1,000,” Ford said. “There are ‘cheapy’ toys for kids, but for that die-hard collector there are $1,000 toys there.”
Even though some of the toys are expensive, Ford said the mint condition collectibles are the most sought-after toys.
“These young kids want to collect the older stuff, it’s never going to lose its value. You’ve got to think, 25 percent of vintage toys are where? In a landfill or were played with,” Ford said. “So the mint stuff is really worth a lot of money.”
Ford said that the Columbus Toy and Collectible Show offers a lot more variety than comic book conventions.
“At a comic book convention, you’ve got those guys just looking for comics and comic book-related stuff,” Ford said. “At my show you’ve got both because we’ve got toys, comics, anything collectible. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Similar to comic book conventions, many guests wear costumes to the toy show and are even entered in a drawing for doing so. The Columbus Ghostbusters, a nonprofit charity group that dresses up as the Ghostbusters and goes to local events, regularly make an appearance at the toy show.
“We get a lot of people that dress in costume and meet at the show. They walk around and that’s just their time to shine,” Ford said. “Whoever dresses up gets put in a special drawing and they get $50 in CTS bucks.”
CTS bucks are each worth $5 and are redeemable at any table at the show, Ford said.
Kentucky toy-seller David Barger has been collecting and selling toys for more than 30 years and has sold at the Columbus Toy and Collectible Show for the past eight years. Barger said while Internet toy buying has caused many toy shows to shut down, the Columbus Toy and Collectible Show is still thriving.
“What’s really unique about the Columbus show is that it has been able to survive all of this,” Barger said. “You still have the people out there that want to hold it, see it and actually touch and see what they are buying versus looking at pictures.”
Barger said his favorite part about selling toys is when people find the “Holy Grail” toy they have been searching for to add to their collection.
“The excitement on people’s faces when they find what they are looking for (is the best part),” Barger said. “All of a sudden their whole face lights up and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, where has this been?'”
Morgan Colyer, a toy seller from Indiana, has attended and sold at the Columbus Toy and Collectible Show for the last four years and said he loves meeting people at the show.
“I meet great people and meet some great customers that I have from online,” Colyer said.
Colyer mainly sells Transformers, but said anyone who comes to the show could find something they like.
“It’s a great experience,” Colyer said. “Even if you’re not into collecting, you’ll see stuff that reminds you of your childhood.”
The Columbus Toy and Collectible Show is Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial at 300 W. Broad St. General admission is $5, and children under 12 are free.